Activity-controlled annealing of colloidal monolayers
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-11362-y
Molecular motors are essential to the living, generating fluctuations that boost transport and assist assembly. Active colloids, that consume energy to move, hold similar potential for man-made materials controlled by forces generated from within. Yet, their use as a powerhouse in materials science lacks. Here we show a massive acceleration of the annealing of a monolayer of passive beads by moderate addition of self-propelled microparticles. We rationalize our observations with a model of collisions that drive active fluctuations and activate the annealing. The experiment is quantitatively compared with Brownian dynamic simulations that further unveil a dynamical transition in the mechanism of annealing. Active dopants travel uniformly in the system or co-localize at the grain boundaries as a result of the persistence of their motion. Our findings uncover the potential of internal activity to control materials and lay the groundwork for the rise of materials science beyond equilibrium.